What is a rash?

A rash is an inflammatory reaction of the skin. Rashes can be caused by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Rashes can affect a small area of the skin or the full body and occur in all age groups and populations.

Rashes vary greatly in appearance, extent and severity, depending on the underlying cause. Rashes can be red, white, purple or silver in color, and raised, bumpy or flat in texture. They can appear as dots or spots or occur in a large, continuous area. Rashes can also include scaling or flaking off of skin cells.

Because of the range of possible causes of a rash, a correct diagnosis of the underlying disease, disorder or condtion  is very important. Contact your health care provider for a physicial exam.

A rash of purple spots can indicate a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, such as meningitis or allergic purpura. A rash that is associated with allergies combined with shortness of breath, wheezing, or swelling of the face, mouth or throat is also a symptom of a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms.


What other symptoms might occur with a rash?

A rash may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms may affect the digestive tract, respiratory system, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, immune system, or integumentary system (skin and associated tissues).

Skin symptoms that may occur along with a rash

A rash may occur with o... Read more about rashsymptoms


What causes rashes?

Rashes can be caused by a wide variety of diseases and conditions, such as infection, inflammation, allergic reaction, parasite and insect bites, and autoimmune processes.

Infectious causes of rashes

A rash may be caused by an infection including:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Chickenpox
  • Fungal infection
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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